Magazine article Herizons

[Women & Children Last: Custody Disputes & the Family Justice System]

Magazine article Herizons

[Women & Children Last: Custody Disputes & the Family Justice System]

Article excerpt

As changes in family law have unfolded over the last three decades, it seems obvious now that custody was the sleeper in the bunch; the mean, sticky little issue that would vex us into the next century as none of the others would. Moreover, as divorce laws were liberalized, and property laws rewritten to reflect more egalitarian concepts of marriage (particularly the idea of communal property), the avenues for litigation were considerably reduced. Custody became fertile territory because it was (and is) extraordinarily disputatious. There was a time when an act had to be passed in the Senate of Canada for a divorce to take place, a time when wives "gave" their husbands divorces by agreeing to sue them for adultery in court (the nicest grounds then available). You can be forgiven for suspecting that the energy once spent on getting the divorce is now being spent on getting the children. Only it isn't that simple. I remember family law lawyer Linda Silver Dranoff telling me once how there are two divorces that occur when a marriage breaks up: the psychological divorce and the legal one. Her point was that it is never wise to get them mixed up. But mixed up they get, and Big Time. This is where Women and Children Last serves its purpose. As a report from the bottom line, it shows how the good intentions of gender neutral law explode on impact with daily reality which is neither egalitarian nor gender neutral. It demonstrates how custody laws are used by some men to perpetuate and control relationships, how judges have knowingly granted abusive fathers unsupervised access to their children. …

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